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Europe - E-cigarettes to be banned in 3 years’ time if committee’s opinion is heeded.

As many ECFers know, the European Union is shortly to issue a new directive on the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products. This document is a reworking of Tobacco Products Directive (2001/37/EC) which, amongst other things, prevented Snus from being sold across the EU, costing many lives in the process.

Tobacco Control is a thorny issue generally: partly because of the vested forces that end up maneuvering it towards their own interests, and partly because of unintended consequences, and partly due to the inexactness of the science that forms policy. The Snus example is a classic one: commissioners believed they were acting strongly to prevent unscrupulous suppliers hooking new users. In fact, they ended up preventing a reduced-harm product from saving many existing smokers' lives.

Why does this happen? In my opinion, it's due to ignorance. Take for example, the Committee Hearing of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety on February 25th this year  (you can watch it here). Almost everyone involved was misinformed, and some were downright ideological concerning every aspect of electronic cigarette, including contents, the effect of nicotine, and smokers' reasons for using them.

Indeed, this last point has been explicitly referenced in the explanatory preamble in the draft opinion of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, where it is stated that "Consumers indicate as well, that they mainly use e-cigarettes to quit smoking, what suggests that e-cigarettes are perceived as a medicinal product." - a ludicrous and misleading sentence if ever there was one.

What is 'to quit smoking' in this context? It's clearly "smoke-smoking", or the inhalation of smoke produced by burning tobacco compounds. Someone who has exclusively taken up vaping is no longer smoking, but has not "quit smoking" in the way commonly understood - ie, to be free of nicotine. There is no evidence whatsoever that e-cigarettes are perceived as medicinal products by those that use them, or that anything other than a small minority use them to quit smoking and to quit nicotine  - this in a totally mendacious invention by whoever is drafting this proposal.

Anyway, enough of that - let's see what the relevant sections of the directive would look like if these proposals are accepted (dowload a PDF of  the Draft Proposal as amended by Committee on the Internal Market):

Proposal for a


on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products  

Articles 18 and 26 as amended by

DRAFT OPINION of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection for the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (COM(2012)0788 – C7-0420/2013 – 2012/0366(COD)) 27.3.2013  



Article 18

Nicotine-containing products

  1. Nicotine-containing products may only be placed on the market if they were authorized pursuant to Directive 2001/83/EC 1a. Member States shall ensure that nicotine-containing products are not sold to persons below the age required for purchasing tobacco products.  

Article 26

Transitional provision


Member States may allow the following products, which are not in compliance with this Directive, to be placed on the market until [Publications Office, please insert the exact date: entry into force +36 months]:   (a) tobacco products; (b) nicotine containing products; (c) herbal products for smoking.  

So, the proposal is that all electronic cigarettes are banned 3 years after the publication date of the directive. This is a big departure from the previous draft in theory, but not in fact - the previous draft would have allowed e-cigs on the market, but with nicotine levels too low to be of any use for the vast majority of vapers. In fact, this draft is good, in a sense, because an extra year has been given for them to remain on the market.

The net effect is the same - at some point in the near future, the only suppliers able to sell electronic cigarettes are those that are able to get market authorization to sell them as medicinal products, a costly and protracted process that will cause most suppliers to go out of business.

If you're outside the EU, and don't think this matters to you, think again - this will be the pattern everywhere. This proposed directive is great for Big Pharma, probably great for Big Tobacco, and terrible for consumers.  


Hat Tip - Old Chemist in ECF thread.

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